REFORM SCOTLAND NEWS: 10 DECEMBER 2010

Reform Scotland

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Daily Political Newspaper Summary: 10 December 2010

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All newspaper references refer to Scottish editions. Where there is a link to a newspaper’s website, the relevant page reference is blue and underlined.

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In addition to the newspaper stories outlined below, further news coverage can be found online at BBC News Scotland, STV News and Sky News.

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Politics

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Tuition fees and student riots: There is extensive coverage of yesterday’s demonstrations against the increase in tuition fees in England.  (Courier page 1, Press and Journal page 1, Guardian page 1, FT page 1, Daily Record page 1, The Times page 1, Daily Mail page 1, Daily Mirror page 1, Daily Telegraph Daily Express page 3, Sun page 1, Scotsman page 1, Herald page 1 

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Megrahi’s health: The Libyan President has said that the health of the Lockerbie bomber has ‘deteriorated significantly’ in recent days, with reports stating that he is on a life support machine, having fallen into a coma, and has been unable to speak for some weeks. However, officials from East Renfrewshire council have dismissed these claims as “unfounded rumours”. The council is charged with monitoring Mr Megrahi as his family was resident in East Renfrewshire when he became imprisoned at Greenock jail, and officials are understood to have spoken to him via video link in the past few days. A spokeswoman said yesterday: “Today’s media speculation regarding Mr Megrahi is just that, and rumours are unfounded.” She added: “We continue to be in contact with Mr Megrahi regularly and whenever we need to be for the purposes of supervision.”(Courier page 3, Press and Journal page 6, Daily Mail page 5, Daily Express page 15, Times, page 7, Scotsman page 6, Herald page 5)

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Labour ex-ministers: Three Labour ex-ministers were today stripped of their Commons passes and reprimanded for breaching rules preventing ex-politicians from cashing in on their privileged access to parliament to make money as lobbyists. The commissioner for standards, Sir John Lyon, also called for a review of the lobbying rules in particular to look at how former MPs can be prevented from exploiting their contacts and experience from their time in office once they leave. It follows an undercover sting in which five former Labour Ministers, Geoff Hoon, Patricia Hewitt, Stephen Byers, Richard Caborn and Adam Ingram, and the Conservative MP Sir John Butterfill, were filmed discussing consultancy services with a reporter from Channel 4\’s Dispatches programme claiming to be from a lobbying firm.(Guardian page 11, Daily Mail page 4, Daily Express page 27, Scotsman page 12)

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Oil transfer halted: A ship-to-ship transfer of oil which was due to take place in the Firth of Forth has been banned by MSPs. The proposal had originally been withdrawn in February 2008, but additional pressure from the UK Coalition Government had allowed the decision to be re-opened. However, the shipping minister announced yesterday that such transfers would now only take place along the north Suffolk coast, and not in Scotland. It had been feared that a potential accident could greatly damage the wildlife in the Forth area, with the RSPB being particularly concerned. (Scotsman, page 10)

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Economy

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Birth rate linked to economy: Scotland’s falling birth rate has been described as the consequence of an uncertain economy. Professor Robert Wright of Strathclyde University made the comments following figures that show that the number of births in the third quarter of this year is down 348 from last year’s number. Professor Wright stated that “the hard economic times [put]downward pressure on fertility” and argued that for the Scottish birth rate to increase in the long term, more people would need to move to the country. (Scotsman, page 16)

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Airbase: Up to 1,000 jobs could be created under £250 million plans to redevelop an airbase. Plans for a new community of up to 1,000 new homes, to be called Newesk, have been drawn up for the former RAF Edzell, which lies on the border of Aberdeenshire and Angus. A plan for the mixed-use project was unveiled yesterday by Carnegie Base Services, which bought the 444-acre site from the Ministry of Defence following its closure. The jobs would be created through the long-term construction phase and from the business spin-offs. The family-owned business is about to embark on community consultation over its “10 to 15-year vision” and hopes to lodge a detailed planning application by the spring of next year. (Press and Journal page 3)

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Justice

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Sheridan trial: Downing Street’s director of communications gave evidence at the perjury trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan yesterday. Andy Coulson, 42, was editor of the News of the World at the time of Mr Sheridan’s successful defamation action against the newspaper in 2006. Mr Coulson denied he “micro-managed” the Scottish edition of the newspaper, whose editor was Bob Bird. However, he said he came to Scotland to view a video secretly filmed by George McNeilage, which showed a man alleged to be Mr Sheridan making admissions about his private life. He said he believed the man in the tape to be Mr Sheridan. The former MSP, who is defending himself, asked whether he was one of the “Wapping two top men” regarding the purchase of the tape.  “I viewed the tape and I suggested to Bob he should do all he could to verify the tape, though I believed it to be authentic on my first viewing, and the tape was published.” Mr Sheridan asked whether he believed it was authentic and Mr Coulson replied: “It was you. We’ve matched it against other recordings of your voice and it seemed pretty authentic to me.” (Press and Journal page 11, Guardian page 12, Daily Record page 9, Daily Mail page 9, Daily Express page 7, Sun page 17)

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Transport

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Snow disruption: The Army was deployed yesterday in Edinburgh to help clear streets near hospitals and doctor’s surgeries, as well as a number of residential streets, in order for the council to preserve grit for main roads. Other councils have not yet resorted to this, with Glasgow Council stating that it had placed ‘thousands of grit bins around the city’ for the use of citizens. This comes as Alex Salmond stated that Scotland should expect to have to cope with “extraordinary weather events on a regular basis”. The snowy conditions of the last two weeks have half-crippled the country’s transport system, with a third of independent garages closing as they had run out of fuel supplies and major disruptions to train services. The Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson, has come under fire after claiming on the evening of Monday 6th that government had given a “first class” response to the icy conditions, after fresh unexpected snowfall that day. (The Telegraph, page 1, The Herald, page 9, Times, page 19, Scotsman pages 8 & 9)

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Tram merger halted: Plans to merge Lothian Buses and TIE, the firm responsible for the new tram network, are expected to be cancelled. However, the trams are still likely to come under the control of Lothian Buses, with Edinburgh Council responsible for finding funding for further tram routes. There is also a possibility that profits from the bus company will have to be used to bail out the project, which is currently facing a two year delay on completion and a £100 million funding gap. (The Scotsman, page 23)

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Local Government

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Council cuts: John Swinney, the SNP Finance Secretary, has been accused of putting “a dagger through the heart of Glasgow” after his decision to inflict a greater cut to Glasgow City Council’s budget than to other councils. Mr Swinney had announced that councils across Scotland would face on average a cut of 2.6% from their budgets, providing that they increased their numbers of police and froze council tax. Some councils, such as West Lothian and Dundee, have been luckier, facing only a 0.32% and 1.03% cut respectively. However, Glasgow will have to manage a 3.6% cut, an increase of £13.5 million from what the council had originally drawn up plans for. The Glasgow City Council leader, Gordon Matheson, stated that “It is absolutely clear that the SNP cares nothing for Glasgow, the beating heart of Scotland’s economy”. (The Scotsman, page 14, Herald page 2)

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